Feminist Activists Turn the Russian Media Against Itself
The feminists seized the Kremlin. On March 8, 2017, a new action in Moscow caught media attention: “The feminists seized the Kremlin!” Moscow and St. Petersburg feminists held an unauthorized rally in the Kremlin, deploying posters with the slogans “Women for Presidents”, “Us the Majority”, “Women for Patriarchs”, “All Power for Women”, “200 Years of the Man in Power – Down with it!”. The participants inscribed the slogans on their skirts and kerchiefs in order to bypass the Kremlin guards. The feminists also posted a banner: “National Idea – Feminism” and lit a fire on one of the towers.
None of Us Have Hatred for Men. We Demand Only Justice.
The post-release sent to the media accompanied by photo and video documentation states: “In Russia men and women are declared equal, however, this equality is, in fact, a myth. According to the Federal State Statistics Service, the difference in wages between men and women is 40 percent. Responsibilities for caring for children are rarely equally divided, As a result, female employees are less profitable and less desirable for an employer to hire…
Every third woman in Russia has survived rape, but the media continues to justify abusers and blame victims. Every fourth woman in Russia has encountered physical violence. In the Russian media, offensive, humiliating humor, which in civilized countries would be grounds for removal from public office, is the norm . Only now are authorities concerned with incorporating women’s rights into the political agenda. But this is just a ruse to increase the size of the electorate before the upcoming elections… Since 1796, the country has been ruled by men. Kings, interim governments, general secretaries … And you know what? Judging by the situation in which women continue to be, they’ve not fared well. And if one were to establish equality in Russia – the women’s turn to rule the state would last the next 220 years. None of us have a hatred for men. We demand only justice. March 8th is the day of struggle for equal rights. And because of this – men must leave”.
The Picture was Photoshopped.
Several participants of the action, as well as some journalists, were detained and taken to the police station, but released shortly after. The action caught lots of media attention due to the fact that these particular feminists had access to the well guarded core of the Russian government. On the 2nd day of the action, it turned out that the documentation of one of the braver parts of the action – the seizure of the Kremlin tower – was fake, that is, the picture was photoshopped. It caused a big scandal in the mass media and split the art activist community in two: the ones who discredited the movement for its use of unfair methods, and those who saw the tradition of “fake” as an integral part of media activism starting from the Yes Men actions to the Pussy Riot videos. In any case, this action managed to attract huge media attention to the feminist agenda and sparked discussions on the means and goals of art activism.
The Red Square – A Place of Protest
The tradition of treating the Red Square as a location where power is concentrated has deep historical roots in post-Soviet Russia, and even earlier in Soviet Russia. In 1968, a group of seven Soviet dissidents organized the so-called “Demonstration of the Seven” to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops. In the 1990s, the Red Square became the space for art performances such as E.T.I. Text (1991) by the E.T.I. movement (Expropriation of the Territory of Art), when fourteen people formed the obscene word, “XYЙ” [dick], with their bodies on the ground. In 1995, artist Alexander Brener challenged President Yeltsin to a boxing match. In 2000, an anti-fascist activist group realised the action, “the Soft extermination of cockroaches”, where they drew a chalk line around the Kremlin to protect the rest of Russia from the evil of governmental power.
At the beginning of the 2010s, the Red Square became the venue for numerous actions of committed citizens, for example, to protest against the law punishing those promulgating homosexual “propaganda”. Comparatively, recent spectacular actions on the Red Square were the Pussy Riot group action, “Rebellion in Russia – Putin is shit-scared!” when the girls climbed the Place of Skulls of the Red Square to sing the protest song in 2011, and the performance by Petr Pavlensky in 2013, which he intended as a metaphor for the apathy, indifference, and fatalism of modern Russian society: With a long nail, the naked artist nailed his scrotum to the Kremlin’s pavement. So, the Red Square remains a symbolic space for the concentration of Russian state power and represents the most effective resource for activism to ensure the highest level of media attention.
Photos by Alexei Abanin, Lydia Khmelevskaya, Katrin Nenasheva, Arden Arkman, Elena Kostyuchenko, Anna Bedynskaya.